"Yeshiva unequivocally condemns any form of abuse, including child sexual abuse. We welcome any police investigation to uncover any improprieties, especially regarding alleged crimes against children. As a large organisation with hundreds of staff and many thousands of people associating with us for more than half a century, we acknowledge the unfortunate possibility that things may have occurred in the past and we encourage victims to go to the Police."
Staement from Chabad's Sydney Yeshiva Centre:
Statement by the Australian Jewish victims advocacy group Tzedek, headed by Manny Waks:
OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY SYDNEY YESHIVA CENTRE:
“Sydney Yeshiva Centre, founded in 1956, has educated thousands of students over the years to be proud of their Jewish identity whilst becoming contributing and patriotic members of Australian society.
As part of a commitment to the highest standards of child well-being for the pupils in our care, our school Yeshiva College has comprehensive child protection policies in place.
There have been media reports about a police investigation into allegations of abuse decades ago by individuals who were associated with Yeshiva. Whilst the police have not contacted us about any investigation, if they do so we will fully cooperate.
Yeshiva unequivocally condemns any form of abuse, including child sexual abuse. We welcome any police investigation to uncover any improprieties, especially regarding alleged crimes against children. As a large organisation with hundreds of staff and many thousands of people associating with us for more than half a century, we acknowledge the unfortunate possibility that things may have occurred in the past and we encourage victims to go to the Police.
Australian rabbinical bodies, including the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Din (rabbinical courts), have ruled that incidents of child abuse should be reported to law enforcement authorities and Yeshiva stands firmly by those rulings. We are confident in the outstanding competence and professionalism of the Australian authorities to ensure the protection and welfare of citizens in our society.
Yeshiva stands ready to work together with the relevant law enforcement authorities and professional support services. We are available to offer assistance and support to any victim of abuse allegedly committed by any persons associated with the Yeshiva Centre. Requests for support can be emailed confidentially to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
TZEDEK RESPONSE TO THE OFFICIAL YESHIVA CENTRE STATEMENT:
“This is yet a further positive development – the Sydney Yeshiva Centre has made its position crystal clear; that it does not tolerate any forms of abuse, it encourages victims to go to the police, it commits to fully cooperating with the police, it offers victims and survivors an acknowledgement of what they may have experienced, and importantly, it offers them support and assistance in a practical and sensitive manner.
This is a highly encouraging development and I commend the Yeshiva Centre leadership for their proactive, effective and welcome statement. They have demonstrated a leadership role in this area.
Tzedek looks forward to working with the Sydney Yeshiva Centre and other stakeholders in order to obtain justice for past wrongs and to ensure the safety of our children.”
Chabad's statement isn't as strong as Waks believes it to be. Chabad is not admitting child sexual abuse took place in the past – it's only saying that it could have because Chabad is very large and, in essense, it was – and is – difficult to supervise everything and everyone to ensure that child sexual abuse did not take place.
Chabad also is silent about any abuse that may be taking place today, other than to say that it has "comprehensive child protection policies in place" and that abusers should be reported to police.
I, too, commend Chabad public stand that victims should report their sexual abusers to police.
But before I – or anyone else, for that matter – heaps praise on Sydney Chabad, we should wait to see how victims are treated as they come forward and what actual cooperation, if any, Chabad provides to police.
Statements are easy to issue. They don't cost money and they are not enforceable. They can be completely true, completely false, or a mixture of truth and falsehoods.
And until we know what this one is, our praise should be tempered by the possibility that Chabad's statement was less than truthful.
That said, lets all hope that it was really an honest and open account of what Sydney Chabad's leadership believes and is willing to act on.
I should also add that if you have been sexually abused at Chabad's Yeshiva Centre or in the Chabad community there, do not go to Chabad for counseling or help.
Report the sexual assaults to police and ask police to connect you with counseling from social services.
If counseling costs you money, have an experienced, trained advocate and/or a barrister approach Chabad and ask Chabad to pay for it. Your name should be kept confidential. If Chabad won't pay, sue them.
But do not use counselors or therapists Chabad has hired or arranged for – especially if that therapist or counselor is a member of the community.
When therapists and counselors are hired by the offending institution to help victims of child sexual abuse, in many cases they end up reporting to that offending institution, not to the victims they treat, and advice given becomes tailored to the needs of the offending institution, not the victims.